Cars & Racing | 17 February 2017Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Historic highway Route 66, traveling 2,451 miles from just outside Chicago to Santa Monica, will forever be cemented in Americana. Many have traveled the road in a quest for adventure, seeking out the most interesting sights, restaurants and motels along the way. So how about if a couple of car nuts, with an eye for great barn finds, gave themselves a couple of weeks to travel the legendary road? Their primary quest would be to hunt up other car enthusiasts and interesting vehicles along the way and chronicle their stories in a book. From the new Motorbooks publication Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip is this tale of one of the many characters and cars which crossed their path. A future project car in Smith’s “holding” area is this 1951 Chevy Fleetline fastback, certainly one of the prettiest American automobile designs of the 1950s. Hot Rodder For Life We pulled our vehicles into the driveway of a house that sat next to a row of rusty cars. A woman was just exiting her car with two small children in tow. I introduced myself and learned her name was Mrs. Smith. “Oh, you need to speak to my husband, Rod,” she said. “The cars belong to Rod and my father, who used to operate a salvage company on the property.” She pointed the way to the garage where her husband, Rod Smith, was fiddling with some old cars. Rod Smith, who had a real tough childhood, has prospered in the oil business and now can enjoy his automotive passions full time. For a car guy, Rod Smith has achieved the American dream. Rod was an interesting guy. He was abandoned and homeless as a child and lived in cars or simply wherever he could find some shelter. He never graduated from high school. Later, he moved to Pennsylvania and New York, following opportunities in the oil business. What’s past is past, though. He must have been good at something because his home and property were impressive. Smith built this American Graffiti 1932 Ford replica. He says it is the highest horsepower vehicle he owns; the stroked 383 cubic inch produces about 900 horsepower. I would like to do just one holeshot in this car. I learned the whole story. He was just a car-crazy kid who worked in gas stations until he got involved in the oil business. Then he invented and patented a piece of equipment that didn’t allow any fumes or vapor to escape from an oil rig and into the atmosphere. He said he made a small fortune. Smith took us for a tour of his cars, starting with a rusty old 1938 Ford pickup. “I’m going to fix that up,” he said. “My wife and I dated in that truck.” Then we walked past a Model A sedan and a T-bucket. Despite their rusty surfaces, the condition of the cars was amazing even though they were more than eighty years old. Visitors to Smith’s house in Oklahoma are greeted by this display of a bikini-clad mannequin and the rusty 1938 Ford pickup that Smith and his wife used to drive on dates. We walked into his garage and he showed us a yellow ’32 Ford coupe that was a dead ringer of the car in George Lucas’s American Graffiti. “It’s got a 383 stroker Chevy engine that puts out about nine hundred horsepower,” he said. Nine hundred. Smith started the car so we could hear the rump-rump idle—that was old-school music to our ears. Then he showed us a 1957 Chevy two-door hardtop that appeared to be freshly restored, but it had a built-up small-block with two four-barrels. It had air conditioning and a one-piece California bumper without seams. “I’ve been a hot rodder my whole life, but I never had the money to own cars like this until I got older,” he said. We walked into the next building. There, Smith had a Model A pickup, roadster, and sedan; a 1940 Chevy; and a World War II Ford Jeep. In another room, Smith showed us his 1961 Corvette. Then we walked through the woods behind his house. There was a 1938 Ford pickup and some sort of postwar Dodge. “When I was a kid, in this part of the country there used to be Model As all over the place,” he said. “You just don’t see them anymore.” Smith explained that many of the Model Ts were bought up by the Ditch Witch Company, which used Model A rear ends in their machines. “But the old cars that you do find out here just sit—they don’t rust out like they do back east.” Smith has an ideal workshop, loaded with numerous restored cars, hot rods, and Corvettes. And the occasional World War II Fordbuilt Jeep. We walked around Smith’s fifteen acres as he continued to show us more. He revealed a 1955 Chevy pickup, 1951 Chevy fastback, and a 1942 Chevy coupe, a rare car that was built for only six months before World War II started. Smith told us that magazines such as Sports Illustrated have used his property and cars for backgrounds for photo sessions. We walked next door to his father-in-law’s property, where a couple of rows of rusty cars were. “My wife’s father is retired, but he still works in that barn over there restoring old windmills,” he said. First in line on his father-in-law’s property were an Opel, Chevy Nova, Corvair, 1955 Ford, split-window VW van, 1946 Ford, 1952 Ford, 1935 Ford, 1957 Chevy, and more. It was quite a discovery to make as we were dashing to exit the state. “When I was a kid, people would come through town on Route 66 and break down,” he said. “I could buy their 1955, ’56, or ’57 Chevy with a clear title for six dollars and fifty cents. They just needed money for a bus ride out of town.” Open wide and say Aaaaaaah. This Corvair and the Chevy sedan next to it are part of a field of cars that are owned by Smith’s father-in-law. Smith said occasionally his wife’s father sells cars from this lot. When we arrived back at Smith’s driveway, we discovered our socks and the bottom of our pants were coated with burrs. We couldn’t shake them off, and if we tried to brush them away, our hands got pierced. Smith showed us how to flick them off with a knife. He loaned us his blade and told us, “I never walk in the house without taking my shoes and socks off first. My wife would kill me if these got into the carpets.” I know what he meant; the carpets in my Woody had burrs stuck to them until I was able to borrow a knife to knock them off. We said goodbye to Smith and drove the 7 miles to the Texas border. Buy from an Online Retailer Abandoned cars on America’s most iconic abandoned road. Sounds like a great idea for a road trip. For a nation that loves the idea of the road, there is no more legendary ribbon of highway than the 2,451 miles comprising historic Route 66. Along the Mother Road lies the detritus of the automotive age: motels, roadside attractions, diners, service stations, drive-ins, and dives. Hidden in, around, and behind its buildings or abandoned along its roadside hide collector cars, lost trucks, and moldering motorcycles. How could there be a better destination for automotive archaeologist Tom Cotter? In Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip Cotter and his BBF (best barn finder) pal Brian Barr jump on Route 66, just outside Chicago, seeking rusted gold in every state Route 66 passes through. Along the way, ace lensman Michael Alan Ross documents their finds, mishaps, and various adventures. Starting in the Midwest and barreling through Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, the barn-find bunch continues on to Arizona before completing their quest in Santa Monica, California. You’ll never guess what automotive treasure they see peeking out from corroded garages and behind weary buildings along the way. You can bet every awesome barn find was investigated and recorded in Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip. Whether you’ve only dreamed of retracing US 66 or are familiar with its path but never considered car hunting there, Route 66 Barn Find Road Trip will take you on the trip of a lifetime. Hop in; you can ride shotgun. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.